mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hamfest is dying...

Probably about 8 or 9 years ago, one of my friends/coworkers introduced me to hamfests - which are basically swap meets for ham radio enthusiasts, not celebrations of tasty, frequently smoked pork products. When I went to my first one, it occurred to me, as I wandered among the tables of electronic crap, that I too had plenty of electronic crap that I could sell. At the time I was doing some eBay selling, though not nearly as much as I do now. It occurred to me that I could unload some of the stuff I'd bought that wasn't worth eBaying - and as I got into it, I realized that I could also buy stuff specifically to sell at Hamfests.

So over the years, it's gone from me just unloading my extra stuff to specifically going to auctions looking for items that would be good hamfest fodder - things like desktop computers and monitors, electronic enclosures, and some stuff that was a gamble - like cases of pint glasses (which turned out to be a losing gamble so far). It's always been hit or miss - I've been to hamfests that were miserable, than come back to the same one the next year and sold 3x as much stuff. I've grossed as little as $!3 and as much as over $1300. I've sold everything from foam body parts to Dell Precision workstations. And I've bought a handful of items as well, most of which have been flipped on eBay (or in the case of the 100-pack of Tyvex envelopes I bought at the same hamfest where I sold $13 worth of stuff, used to pack stuff I sold on eBay)

But in the last few years, I'll always hear people muttering about hamfests not being what they used to be. I've seen the effects of it, as well - the Timonium hamfest going from 2 days with outdoor tailgating to one day, indoor only, the disappearance of the big Fredrick Hamfest, one I had always liked. But my sales were still decent, and I kind of shrugged it off.

But I'm starting to re-evaluate this view. My last few have been slow - I used to sell a ton of PC's and monitors, now I'm lucky if I sell one or two. Today's Howard County hamfest had a lot fewer vendors than last year's, and fewer customers as well - despite a clear sky. I still did OK, but instead of a mix of OK and great I've had several in a row that have just been OK. And it's been more work to get that way - grinding it out, selling lots of couple dollar a piece items instead of a few big sales.

I don't intend to stop going to hamfests anytime soon. But I'm changing my buying and selling strategy - right now I have a ton of PC's and monitors, and I'm not going to be buying any more until I've sold them all (I mean, unless I have a chance to buy a bunch of i7's for $10 each or something. But that never happens). I'm also willing to sell stuff at cost, or take a loss, just to get rid of it.

The reality is that when I look around my house, when I look at the stuff I'm tripping over, much of it is hamfest stuff - despite the fact that the money I make from it is a very small part of my income. Granted, part of this is the nature of the beast - eBay items can quickly come in, get listed, and get shipped out, while hamfest stuff has to wait until the next one and hope it sells. But I'm tired of tripping over stuff, I'm tired of spending over an hour loading my truck the night before a hamfest, and then unloading most of it again. My goal going forward is to have a lot less stuff, and for the most part to only buy stuff that I know I can resell quickly, preferably that is light and doesn't take up a lot of room.

Hamfests aren't dead yet, but they are changing, and I need to change with it, before I'm crushed by a stack of unsold Dell Pentium 4's that I couldn't pass up because they were $5 each.


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